The first Canadian blues recording ever to go gold will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) at the National Arts Centre on Friday.
“I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)” was written by Don Walsh, the co-founder of the legendary Downchild Blues Band, and song skyrocketed to international fame when it was covered by The Blues Brothers’ Dan Aykroyd and the late Jon Belushi – who were heavily influenced by the Canadian group.
Downchild, founded in 1969, are considered the trailblazers of blues in Canada, one of the premier blues bands in Canadian history, and a catalyst for the genre’s renaissance in the late ‘70s to ‘80s. They’ve released 18 albums, earned countless awards, and sold-out tours around the world.
The song induction will take place during the band’s 50th anniversary party in Ottawa on Nov. 29, featuring special guests Dan Aykroyd, Tony D (of MonkeyJunk), Suzie Vinnick and Andy J Forest.
“It’s such an honour to have ‘I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)’ chosen to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame,” Don said. “When you write a song, you have no idea what kind of effect it will have on people, and for some reason, this song really connected with fans. Having my friend Dan Aykroyd record it with The Blues Brothers definitely helped give it greater exposure worldwide, which was exciting.”
“As a songwriter,” Don continued, “it’s the ultimate to have one of your songs selected to be in the Hall of Fame, alongside some of the greatest songwriters of our time, not only in Canada but internationally, like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young. It just doesn’t get any better than that!”
“I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)” brought the sensuous sounds of the Mississippi Delta to Toronto, laying the groundwork for what is now a thriving domestic blues scene. As the house band of Grossman’s Tavern in 1969, the Downchild Blues Band played audacious, innovative blues rarely heard live in northern climes. Downchild quickly became Canada’s top blues band, with audiences embracing the act fronted by two brothers, blues shouter Rick “The Hock” Walsh and Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh on guitar.
Downchild first released “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)” on their Straight Up album in 1973. Their label, GRT, later remixed the cut in 1974 as a 45-rpm single titled “Almost,” as a follow-up to their first single, the infectious Top 40 hit “Flip, Flop and Fly.” “Almost” featured Don’s “York County” on the B-side. With its winning combination of “jump” and Chicago blues, “Almost” quickly became a favourite of radio stations.
With Don on blues harmonica and guitar, brother Rick delivering no-holds-barred vocals, and a tight horn section filling out the sound, “Almost” combined an easy relaxed flow with a gritty sound befitting the song’s desperate message that fame means nothing without love. “But I don’t got you,” Rick sings, “and you’re the one I need the most…. If I don’t get you, I believe I’ll die.”
“Almost” led Downchild to tour clubs and colleges extensively in Canada. Further success came when Don’s pal Dan Aykroyd covered the hit song with his new act The Blues Brothers on their 1978 album Briefcase Full of Blues. The late John Belushi took the vocals, with Dan on harmonica and the expertise of Thunder Bay-born Paul Shaffer (of TV’s David Letterman show) on keyboards. The Blues Brothers’ appearance on TV’s Saturday Night Live propelled the album to Billboard’s No. 1 position in February 1979. From there it went two-times platinum, bringing Don’s “Almost” to millions of listeners.
Dan Aykroyd said of Downchild, “This is one of the greatest urban blues outfits in North America, with a full mastery and command of guitar, harmonica and vocals. … You’ve got one of the best electric harmonica players in the world, you’ve got one of the best guitar players in the world, and he’s also a very good vocalist.”
“Almost” has been a staple of Downchild’s albums, including Double Header (1988), A Case of the Blues (1998), Downchild Live at the Palais Royale (2007), and others. “Almost” was also featured on later Blues Brothers albums, including The Essential Blues Brothers, The Definitive Collection, and An Introduction to the Blues Brothers (Billboard’s No. 5 Blues album of 2017).
The song has also been recorded by Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts and by the late Marcia Rutledge. The international success of “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost),” combined with Downchild’s earlier hit “Flip, Flop and Fly,” opened the door for artists such as Jeff Healey and Colin James to forge their own blues identities at home in Canada.
Tickets for Friday’s show can be purchased at Ticketmaster, by calling (613) 947-7000 ext. 620, or in person at the National Arts Centre box office.